Every fall, teachers prepare their lessons for the beginning of the school year knowing that students will have regressed a bit academically while on summer vacation. In a perfect world, students could simply press pause in June and pick up in August or September right where they left off, but that is unfortunately not reality. The negative impact of remote learning for those students who had limited to no engagement during the spring of 2020 will prove to have caused an even more exacerbated summer slide.
According to the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., children lose about one month of “in-school learning” over the summer. This learning loss will surely be more prevalent this fall, but there are some ways to help your child(ren) maintain some of the skills of the previous grade (cue the dramatic music).
Here several strategies that parents can use to help ward off the summer slide, as well as some that may actually move children forward academically. While this article by no means covers all of the possible solutions, hopefully it will help arm parents with strategies to effectively combat summer learning loss.
1. Focus on Reading:
Reading is not just for the school year. Set up a routine with your child so that they engage in reading every day. For younger children, pick a time during the day to read to them. For independent readers, carve out a general time of day when 20-30 minutes of reading occurs regularly. For elementary and middle school students, we especially recommend introducing children to a book series. Once a child becomes hooked by the characters of a particular series, they tend to buy into reading the next phase of the saga. Some examples include - but are certainly not limited to - The Magic Treehouse, A-Z Mysteries, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, and of course, Harry Potter. There are so many good book series out there. Take the time to help your child find one that they are really interested in. Then follow up by joining them on the characters’ journeys through the series, and even discussing plot points and narrative elements along the way. A conversation that starts with questions as simple as “Which book in the series did you like best? Why?” go a long way!
2. Math Adds Up:
Just like reading, math is not a subject that can be mastered over the course of a school. Use the time over the summer to engage your child in online or offline math games. There are many digital platforms that are available to kids and are a quick Google search away for parents.
Multiplication.com is one site that has a variety of interactive math games for kids. Ask your children real-life math questions that are relevant to their developmental level. For example, you could take them to the grocery store and ask them for their help determining the cost of the overall bill or the sales price of items if they are discounted.
For younger children, you could ask them simple math questions such as, “We need a total of 5 apples. We have 2 apples (show them the apples). How many more apples do we need to have 5 apples?” The bonus here is you will have a real life example to refer to the next time they ask “when am I ever going to use this?”
3. Model Appropriate Expressive Language:
Kids often imitate what they witness in their day to day life. Therefore it is exceedingly valuable to the development of their own vocabulary to be exposed to rich conversation. Not only will children learn new vocabulary words in context, but they will also be exposed to new, meaningful concepts that they would otherwise not learn.
4. Pique Their Curiosity:
One strategy that teachers, regardless of discipline, employ regularly in an effort to engage students is to use a “hook” at the beginning of a lesson. This is usually a question or problem that is connected to the specific lesson that relies on students’ senses of curiosity. In this way, the hook helps reel students into the new material that will be covered in the remainder of the lesson. This can be done at home over the summer with any subject as well!
Try to initiate this by pitching an intriguing question to a child and then encouraging them, often along with your guidance, to explore the cause. Here is an example courtesy of my own 9-year old: What kind of bikes are the best for doing jumps? What makes them the best?
This line of questioning is an easy segway to math-focused research into a new bike based on a reasonably set budget as well as the list of other characteristics established after the first set of questions. An exercise like this is perfect for helping young children understand value and also provides a practical way to brush up on some math facts.
5. Play a “Thinking” Game:
While it is easy to give into a child’s request for technology, which can provide parents with some disturbance-free time for mom or dad, some of the best ways to spend some extra summer time is by playing an old-fashioned game. We strongly recommend games of the “thinking” variety such as chess, Qwirkle, Rummikub, Scrabble, dominoes, etc. Many of these games require that you as a parent teach your child how to play, but once you do, they can hone their skills in an effort to beat dear old dad (or mom), all while spending some quality time together sans screentime.